Fasten seatbelts: Hawaiian Airlines boss predicts tough year ahead

Fasten seatbelts: Hawaiian Airlines boss predicts tough year ahead

Russell Williss.
Russell Williss.
Hawaiian Airlines' new boss in New Zealand says 2016 will be a challenging year for the airline.

Russell Williss said the airline faced increased competition from other airlines, a lower and fluctuating New Zealand dollar and greater rivalry from other destinations.

"The first three years have been an ongoing battle and
struggle against some pretty formidable competition but we are certainly boxing above our weight in the market. We're very much focussed on building on what we've put in to date," he said.

The airline flies three return flights a week between Auckland and Honolulu using an Airbus A330 plane.

Williss worked for the airline's New Zealand sales agent, The Walshe Group, and his appointment as Hawaiian's country director was announced on Monday.


He said fares across the Pacific had never been lower but was determined not to get into price chopping, which he said was largely the result of the Star Alliance's competition with Oneworld, which has Qantas and American Airlines in its group.

"The pricing in the market is as aggressive as I've ever seen it. I've been in the industry for a good 20 years and to see sub-$1000 on direct USA services is about as low as it gets," said Williss "There's a bit of arm-wrestling going on."

The airline is also establishing a commercial office in Sydney. Hawaiian's regional director for Australia and New Zealand, Gai Tyrrell, said the business had evolved in both Australia and New Zealand and it was appropriate to scale up commercial resources in line with its operating presence and plans.

Williss said the airline had increased Auckland-Honolulu flights to four times a week at peak holiday times in the past. "We're always reviewing it - we have more equipment arriving in 2016, so we're elevating where we're going to get the best value on the investment."

The New Zealand dollar had fallen sharply from US88c around the middle of last year. Williss said the sweet spot for Kiwi travellers to Hawaii and on to the airline's 11 US mainland destinations was around US70c to US75c.

"It's been a bit of a roller coaster - we don't control it and so we have to get on with it."

American tourist dollars were going further in New Zealand and that part of Hawaiian's business was growing, he said.

CULLED FROM NZHERALD

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